Operations at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos has been paralysed since early this morning following an indefinite strike embarked upon by a contractor of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
The contractor in charge of the maintenance of the conveyor belts at the airport, OTIS Nigeria Limited early this morning shut down all the belts due to the massive debts owed it by FAAN.
It was learnt that FAAN owed the maintenance company eight months debts running into hundreds of millions of naira.
The strike so far affected flight operations by Virgin Atlantic Airways, Qatar Airways, Kenya Airlines and Med-View Airline.
The airlines were scheduled to depart the country early this morning on international flights, but as at the time of filing this report, the affected carriers were yet to leave Lagos because of the delay in checking in luggage by the ground handling companies through the conveyor belts.
Agents of the airlines had to manually load the luggage of the passengers into the aircraft, which has caused chaos at the airport as hundreds of passengers struggle to identify their checked-in luggage at the airside before being loaded into the aircraft.
Apart from the departing luggage, the disruption has also affected arriving luggage operations to be properly processed through the conveyor belts.
At the luggage claim area, passengers’ check-in luggage were deplaned from the aircraft manually by the ground handling companies to the baggage claim area while passengers were told to identify their check-in luggage at the area.
There are fears that several of the checked-in luggage may not depart with departing aircraft as service agents have resulted into manual loading of the luggage.
Airlines to be affected later today are South African Airways, Air France/KLM, Delta Air Lines, British Airways, African World Airlines, RwandAir, Emirates, Etihad and Maroc Air.
Others are Air Cote D’Ivoire; Turkish Airlines, Asky Airlines and others.
It was further gathered that the contracting company in charge of the maintenance of the conveyor belts were engaged by controversial former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah since 2012.
A source close to the terminal said: “The contractor has been on the issue with FAAN for several months, but the feelers they receive is that FAAN may not be willing to continue with the contractual agreement as the contractor was brought on board in 2012 by Stella Oduah.
“The problem we have is that most of these companies are owned by those who contracted them while they use some persons as fronts. You will recall that the Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika recently called for a review of the concession agreements in the sector and OTIS is one of the companies affected by this directive.”